The Contra Costa Times put out a disgusting piece yesterday afternoon which accuses HALO caretaker Renee Franceschini of inappropriate actions with a minor. This was clearly a reckless piece by the Contra Costa Times on an article that was a hit piece at best while trying to protect HALO’s new Board.
In speaking to the former HALO president, its caretaker, two board members, and many shift leaders and volunteers, one thing is clear is the Contra Costa Times story is flat out wrong. I’d encourage Wayne and Joyce Sanderson to step down from HALO immediately. The six people I spoke to will go under oath to highlight just how false these accusations are from the Times and Sanderson.
The piece by Rowena Coetsee crosses over the line and the comments by Wayne Sanderson are grossly inaccurate. There is no disciplinary complaint filed, nothing on record, nothing in the Board minutes but those now leading HALO, and it appears they waited until recently to disclose Ms. Franceschini’s behavior.
This is almost like the West Coast version of Penn State. If Wayne and Joyce Sanderson knew of this “inappropriate behavior”, why did they not call the police? Should they now be considered as bad as Joe Paterno? The truth is, they are using this “inappropriate behavior with a minor” as an excuse to drop Tamera Reed as President of HALO’s and oust the caretaker all in the name of not making he and his wife look bad in the process of the takeover.
“The article makes me out to be a pedophile, this is terrible,” stated Renee Franceschini. “I’ve done nothing wrong. How can they make me sound that terrible, you have got to be kidding me. When the volunteering was over, I had permission and they (parents) knew. ”
Before taking on the HALO caretaker position, Franceschini stated she was asked to move here. She has taught cosmology, worked in a salon, I was the East Contra Costa County family outings coordinator for the mothers club, a parent liaison for Mt. Diablo School District and a rotary club member.
“A person doesn’t take this accusation lightly,” said Franceschini. “This is serious, and can bring harm not only to me but to that family. And it is against the law with what they are doing. The only thing I’m guilty of if helping the poor animals that were here and actually doing too much work.”
Before I get into some of the rebuttals offered by two HALO volunteers (shift leaders) and those close to the situation, let’s first go through the article to provide just how reckless Ms. Coetsee and the newly elected H.A.L.O. president Wayne Sanderson acted.
The letter presented to her sister, Renee Franceschini, that night asked her to vacate the Second Street facility that the organization is leasing from the city no later than Aug. 20 and offered her $500 in moving expenses if she leaves by Tuesday.
In speaking with Ms. Franceschini, she stated she has a 16-month agreement with HALO which began last October where she could move into HALO House and live.
“My contract was a verbal contract for the length of the lease, I changed my whole life because of this. I worked my butt off for HALO for 8 months. I questioned it and questioned it. They gave me assurances and I committed. I moved in Oct. 30 of last year. I have not broken any rules, I had no one live with me, I rarely had visitors,” stated Franceschini.
This bit of information might have been useful to readers in terms of the caretaker agreement. This has been verified by Tamera Reed who as president agreed to the agreement and was approved by the Board at the time.
“I was promised to have my own place, and that I could live a normal life… Not a life where everything you did was under a microscope,” said Franceschini.
Similar to the above statement we can look at the photo caption which makes Franceschini out to be a “squatter” which is poor journalism.
The photo caption below reads, “A caretaker at the facility has turned into a squatter where the nonprofit is leasing a building leaving less space and resources for the volunteers and animals to use.”
This is the yellow journalism which is what the Contra Costa Times is known for as the article clearly stated Wayne Sanderson gave notice this week to be out by August 20. Clearly, using the term squatter is the wrong word and is an attack on Franceschini–I hope the Times has a lawyer readily available.
Some directors are concerned about Franceschini allowing teenage shelter volunteers into her living quarters after hours, he said, fearing that she was creating the appearance of impropriety and exposing the nonprofit to litigation.
Ms. Coetsee fails to mention which directors are “concerned” or how many are “concerned”. More importantly, just because their is an appearance of impropriety doesn’t mean its reality. Franceschini disputes this claim in the Times and calls it an “exaggeration of the situation, bogus and over the line.”
Using common sense, how can a 24-hour a day organization even have “after hours” anyway? What exactly does that mean or does the Times or Sandersons consider after hours? It’s just a poor statement on their part to make a bigger issue out of something that was never there to begin with.
“When the entire issue came up, I was fully transparent with HALO and let them know about the situation. I had full approval from all parties. I know the mom and dad, I had permission, what is so wrong about it?” stated Franceschini.
According to Reed, the minor in question is a family friend who they have known for a long time and who has gone on family vacations with Franceschini. Reed claims this is a distortion of the facts to smear Franceschini.
Reed also disputes Sanderson’s account in the Times saying she failed to take action.
Reed states that board meeting minutes show (which she has copies) that Directors never asked her to talk to her sister about after-hours guests and it’s only one board member who has the problem with the minor. Moreover, their has never been a complaint in writing or discussion with the Directors.
“Wayne (Sanderson) told my sister that they will ruin me and that is what they are doing,” said Franceschini.
Linda Fournier Defends Francschini
I received a phone call followed by confirmation from email by Linda Fournier who expressed major concerns about the Contra Costa Times article. She explained that she worked directly with Joyce Sanderson at the Sandersons home since 2011 and was a shift leader.
Fournier explained that she had major concerns about the timing of the allegations. It was never brought up to shift leaders or staff and never any questions asked as if the Contra Costa Times were the first to report it as opposed to going to CPS or the police.
” I am concerned that if the board has proof and cause about any improper behavior or concerns happening inside Halo house, that it was not shared with the staff at Halo House immediately,” said Fournier. “I would think we would be the first to be notified of any concerns and be questions regarding behavior and the accusations between Renee and the boy”.
She went onto explain that has shift leaders, they are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of the volunteers and by not speaking up until now, the timing doesn’t make sense and reflects badly on the organization all because of hidden agendas.
“HALO’s new leadership has put all of us shift leaders in a very precarious situation, knowing that we are responsible for the youth that we supervise, and I think the board needs to be accountable to us and the parents of our volunteers for the statements they made concerning this matter, ” said Fournier
She wrote in an email following our conversation the following information:
I am deeply saddened and shocked at the comments and accusations being made. Let me point out, that in the whole time I have volunteered not once have seen 3 of the board members ever work at the Halo House or come in. And 2 others I haven’t seen in months. The ones who did not vote Tamara out, Gigi, and Treasure have been in and around Halo house, and I am sure they are very surprised by the Boards allegations. How they speculate what goes on in Halo house and what is very disturbing to me.
If allegations were made by another shift leader why weren’t they brought before the board? Why, if they were so concerned about the youth’s behavior , weren’t all of the shift leaders notified immediately that there may be a potential problem that we should be aware of. I find this to be a total surprise, and the now I think the board members should be made accountable for not notifying us right away if they have proof.
I know and work with most of the Lead shift leaders and many youth volunteers and never has anyone said anything to the contrary that they had a problem with Renee’s behavior, or they have had a problem with the boy in question.We have nothing but respect for all the hard work and kindness she has shown all the youth volunteers.
Not at any time, have I even seen any other guests visiting Renee at her home or have witnessed anything but professionalism and love for the dogs. In contrast, I have heard Renee criticized about her personal life by a board member, including the clothing she wears. They had negative things to say even, about her fixing up the garden on the side of her yard, from a dump to a beautiful little place we could use during adoptions. They have been attacking her for things that should be none of their business, and has has been scrutinized since the day she moved in.
As for the files disappearing, I know nothing about that, but they were completely aware that the parents were notified, that their children’s shift leaders would not be there after Thurs. The parents were also told that Tamara had been removed as president.
What they did not take into consideration is Tamara has worked very closely with the children training, and working shifts with them, and all of us shift leaders had a very good relationship with the children on our shifts.
They were not told, NOT to come back to volunteer, but the decision was left up to the parent and the child. When the article mentions that a few of the volunteers left, it should be noted that most of them left, because if that were true HALO would still be operating like it should be.
Let the truth come out and the board members of HALO be accountable for their actions.
In speaking with Fournier, she was clearly upset with the Contra Costa Times, Wayne Sanderson and Rowena Coetsee. She called the story a manipulation of reality and it never happened because she would have been the first to speak up against the accusations.
Machado Defends Franceschini
I received a phone call from Becca Machado shortly after the relase of the Times article and she wanted to set the record straight about how incorrect the Contra Costa Times piece was. Ms. Machado was a shift leader and her kids often participated in helping the organization.
Here is what she said.
“I have been volunteering since Dec. 2011 If I had seen or suspected funny business I wouldn’t have sat there and let it continue with a minor and an adult. I would not allow that. The claim is ridiculous. I can’t believe someone would utter the words that Renee and this child were in that position,” said Machado.
“On Tamera and Renee’s behalf, I want to go on record that I never once suspected any type of relationship in that manor stated by the Contra Costa Times between Renee and a minor. I thought they were mother and son. I never thought they were a couple. After months went by, I found out that she was the boy’s nanny,” explained Machado. “For someone to say they were having a relationship or acting inappropriate is hurtful. I’ve become friends with those two and knowing the 17 year old boy, he wants to become a pastor and minister youth. I don’t see that happening ever. I can’t get over someone would say something so negatively about them like that. The Contra Costa Times story was wrong.”
Ms. Machado further explained that the mission of HALO has now been lost based on non-profit politics and it’s sad. The mission of HALO is about the animals and nothing more and that is what is frustrated by what the Contra Costa Times is reporting and what the Sandersons claim as reality which is false.
She fears the organization will not recover from these lies.
Brentwood Press Correction
While Reed will stay on as a HALO volunteer, several volunteer shift managers at HALO House stepped down from their roles last week, and as a result, youth volunteers have been hesitant to return to the adoption center.
According to Reed, the above statement is incorrect as she stated she is no longer volunteering with HALO. She confirmed that she has not told any volunteers not to help out with the animals, she is also not encouraging youth to join HALO but is encouraging them to assist with other local organizations since HALO no longer has any trained staff who are familiar with working with youth or animals.
The article also says a handful of volunteers quit. That is also incorrect as all the adult shift leaders from HALO quit, however, she is unaware if any youth are still volunteering.
City of Oakley
Finally, kudos go out to the City of Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery for choosing to stay out of the non-profit’s business. As long as HALO pays it’s rent, the city is not to get involved. Same goes for the City Councilmembers. While some argue the City needs to step in, the City is doing exactly what it should be doing which is nothing at this point in time.
I don’t know what to think about this other than Rowena seems to have left out major details. And people wonder why the Times stinks. Nice work in trying to get all the facts and put them together Mike. Times may have jumped the gun on this one and will regret it.
Just wow is all I have to say. Someone is fibbing from the remaining HALO members. I like the point that if the Sandersons knew of the inappropriate behavior, why didn’t they just call the police right away? Instead, they let it continue. Someone is distorting the truth.
This is a power play and gives a black eye to non-profits.
You are correct. All the city people should stay out of it. Let it simmer in its own juices.
The CC Times has written a twisted and one sided version about a woman that wanted only the best for HALO and the animals that it saved and protected. With that twist, it implicated everyone that has volunteered or been a part of Halo. The Times should retract and apologize at the least! We currently receive the Times and if nothing is done to counter this ugly and unfounded ‘travesty of justice’ we will cancel our subscription.
This was my email to Mr.Butler of the CC Times.
Dear Mr. Butler,
My name is Katie Menez, I was a shift leader at H.A.L.O House up until 7/20/12. I am probably the person referred to by Rowena in the 7/27/12 article as the volunteer who had her 10 year old child volunteering with her. I cannot begin to express my sickness as to what is going on with H.A.L.O. I think we have lost focus. I have personally worked with the 17 year old boy that is being brought into question. Never was I worried for my 2 daughter’s safety. When I found out about the article I discussed it with my husband, he took it upon himself to ask my daughter about whether or not she felt uncomfortable around this young man. When he posed the question to her she literally looked at him like he was crazy and why would he be asking her such a stupid question. I spoke with Rowena a couple of days ago in regards to this whole situation. I never thought the article was going to take this angle. I think the only concern should be where are the dogs? How are they being cared for? The dogs were the reason I chose to volunteer at H.A.L.O. I have spent months there with my 3 kids building a relationship with the animals. Never when we walked through the doors did I stop and wonder who Renee had in her living quarters or did I feel it was inappropriate. These are the facts as I know them….Tamara Reed was a true advocate for the animals….Renee in my opinion went above and beyond her caretaker responsibilities with the dogs. H.A.L.O. House was a well oiled machine. I was present at the the July 5th board meeting and no concerns were brought up in regards to Renee. I am disheartened. I am the public opinion…and I will not let this go down quietly.
There is a saying “Live by faith, not by sight”, I have faith that the truth will be told, I know halo on July 19th had there chance to bring up everything. They never stated any of what they are saying now. One should think why? Their stories keep changing depending upon what others comment. Tamara’s, mine, the volunteers, the shift leaders have all remined consitant. With everything halo is saying now it’s obvious they are doing their best to hurt innocent people. How can a group of people who are said to have compassion for animals be so cold and calluos,towards humans? I feel so sad for all the animals who are suffering due to this, we were a wonderful rescue, I witnessed nothing but compassion here at halo house with all our volunteers and the animals, I wonder how many dogs or cats that have been rescued since July 19th? There are so many adoptable dogs and cats that are being put to their death as I speak in shelters, yet others focus on bringing pain to innocent people. How can one call theirselves a recuse when they allow this maddness to continue. I have faith that those who are behind this will think about their actions and do what is right, not only for those involved……..but for the animals. Otherwise I believe it will become far worse before it gets better.
I believe our father GOD would be proud of the work that was done at HALO house in the last 8 months. The Team of shift leaders and volunteers did an awesome job. They saved many lives not just cats and dogs but youth and adults also. There was not a person who volunteered there that did not have a compassionate heart. What the public needs to know is we dealt with sorry pain and happiness on a daily level. We had youth who had lost their mom or dad or both, Adults that had lost their spouse, Volunteers struggling w/ cancers, fibromyalgia, and pain from knee, arm and hand surgeries. Volunteers who lost their homes jobs or both. Some with disabilities. HALO house had high standards to keep for a HALO is a Godly sign. Everyone who volunteered had love, compassion and respect for all whether two or four legged. One of the best ways to spread Gods word is just to listen. get to know people, love thy neighbor. You will never know your kind word to someone may be the only one they hear that day. It impacts and at times may save lives. All the shift leaders and youth stand proud you have nothing to be ashamed of I can honestly say YOU made a difference in my life I am honored to have met you all. You will be my friends forever. We made a difference. God is proud of you all and when it comes down to it that is really all that matters. Give it up to the Lord. Trust in him he will lead us in the right direction
I am sending a challenge out to all involved. We need to all sit down calmly, respectfully, and with a mediator who is non bias and come to a solution that would stop all this maddness and restore what everyone came together for in the first place, which is to save and rescue animals who otherwise be put to death. Wasn’t that why everyone was so passionate about? Don’t you see the focus was shift to people and not why we were all here and why we all worked so hard? I know in my heart that no one wants to see halo tarnished. We can show the children, the community, the volunteers, that we are all adults and that just maybe things were not completely thought out, that emotions took over and that choices can be different. We can make halo a name that is known for what we actually do ….save animals……………………..not maddness. I know it can be done, everyone involved has to know deep inside that we owe it to the ones without a voice, please if it is truly about the animals then everyone would agree to this. I believe this would be a great learning expirence and a way to show the community who believed in all of us that we can put differences aside for the betterment of the animals. Thats what halo is about. Remember TEAM…..together, everyone, achieves, more. I can only put it out there, I can’t make anyone do what I ask. We all know though its the right thing to do. If you don’t respond then it was never about the animals, it was about yor own personal gain.
I will meet the challenge. It has always been about the animals in my heart. Its up to the existing Board members to come forward
Did Mr. Sanderson get full Board approval of his remarks to the CCTimes BEFORE he made them, or did he decide to drag them down this very dangerous path without their permission? It sounds like a classic abuse of power situation… akin to Nixon saying “When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” I don’t believe that H.A.L.O. has an attorney on staff. They may have wanted to run his remarks past Legal before he spoke to the press.
I believe this is ALL about the Sandersons not HALO. Let it rest and see what falls out.
Thank you to all the people in the community and the city of Oakley, for the amazing outpour of support and advice, personal and legal. You truly have made a difference in helping us succeed with our goals. I am truly humbled by the love and concern shown for us and the dogs.Thank you Michael Burk for letting us speak freely on your newspage.
Im sorry, but I have never seen anything so sad in my life.
I was a shift leader that led shifts 3-4 days a week. Shifts are 2 hours but I often stayed up to 6 hours a day, doing some extra clean up, spending time with the animals, but most of all working side by side with Tamera. I can honestly say everyday that I’ve been there since I’ve started with Halo Tamera was also there constantly working. I’ve never seen someone who did not get paid for what they did work so hard. She has taught me so much and I’m truly going to miss working with her. She will always have a place in my heart.
As for Renee… Where do I start? So many people have told me “I don’t know why Renees living there, she does absolutely nothing” but you know who those people are? People that are never at HH! Renee was not only a shift leader but did much more. And I dont even know where to begin about the boy that is being dragged into this mess. Do you people have any idea what you are doing to this kids life?! Yes, nobodies mentioning his name in writing but everybody knows who youre talking about. The accusations that are being made about Renee and this young boy, true or not, are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. For the record let me say this, for anybody, I don’t care who it is, to accuse either of these people of the kinds of things they have been accused of, with all do respect, should be committed into a 5150 house because that’s just crazy.
The articles I have read in the past couple weeks have completely broken my heart. My passion since I was a child has been animals. I started volunteering because my goal is to be a vet tech and I wanted as much experience as possible. I have learned a tremendous ordeal just by volunteering at halo.
I feel everybody is losing site on what is most important. These animals need us, more than some people know. Not only have I been volunteering at HH, I’ve also been fostering kittens through halo. I started out with 7, 1 week old kittens and I now have 3 left since the other ones have been adopted. I look at these precious animals everyday and am so thankful that others and myself are able to save these animals lives. And I truly believe just by looking into their eyes they show us how thankful they are as well.
I feel so blessed to have been given the chance to work with Tamera, Renee, and all of the other members I volunteered with.
I would like to thank the volunteers that I led. You guys were absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for donating your time.
I’m getting sidetracked because there’s so many things I would like to say but the animals are number one. I have made a special relationship with each one of these animals at HH house, as I think much of us have. Since a couple of years ago I have suffered from severe panic attacks and I can not tell you how much these animals have changed my life. I can’t count how many times I’ve started having a panic attack on the way to HH and as soon as I walked in and saw how happy those dogs were to see me it all just faded away. Helping these animals does not only help them, it helps us and I think through this hard time we all need to remember that.
When I walk into HH now, it’s so quite, so lifeless. It used to be so filled with life. Now it’s just an empty building and the worst thing about it is that their are dogs being put down every second and we could be saving 30 dogs lives right now with the space we have at HH.
I really hope the board members can fix this problem and get back to saving lives because every day that goes by is more and more dogs lives we could be saving.
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